the Gospel from Sunday is still ringing in my ears, and I have to say that every time I hear this Gospel, it blows me away. It provides me with such hope, consolation, and it only strengthens my belief in the importance of community and for care in the world. Love for one another – those in our close community, but also on the other side of the world – people we may never ever meet…but who exist.
the Gospel from Sunday was taken from Mark 2:1-12 and it is the story of the paralyzed man who was carried by four people over to Jesus. Part of the Gospel reads, “The four who carried him [the paralyzed man] were unable to bring him to Jesus because of the crowd, so they began to open up the roof over the spot where Jesus was. When they had made a hole, they let down the mat on which the paralytic was lying. When Jesus saw their faith, he said to the paralyzed man, “My son, your sins are forgiven.” And later, Jesus said to the no longer paralyzed man, “Stand up! Pick up your mat and go home.”
These four people straight up opened the roof over the spot where Jesus was. What? They were determined! They knew what they had to do. And they did it for their their brother, this paralyzed man. When I picture this, my mind can not even seem to fathom the amazingness in the situation, but faith? wow, yes. It is so apparent.
Whenever I hear this Gospel, I think of one of my favorite homilies that I heard back at my church in Santa Monica, CA, St. Monica’s (go figure!). I have the homily recorded way back from 2009, and to this day, I still listen to it. Yes, technology! Msgr. Torgerson shares how we all have a paralysis – whether it be addiction, sin, anger, pride…whatever it may be. But Jesus commands each one of us, to stand up and to take up our mat. One of my favorite remarks from this homily is when he says, he believes it is important for us to take our mat with us – not to just leave it. Why? Two reasons: 1) If we bring the mat with us, we may hold the mat to serve as a reminder of where we have been. Many times we get healed, and then we forget, and then we revert back. and number 2, if we keep the mat, we can place others on it with us. This way, we may bring our other paralyzed brothers and sisters on the mat with us, and we can serve one another for healing.
I just really love that imagery so much.
At mass on Sunday, I sat in the pew by myself trying to not get so distracted by the couple to the left of me who kept cracking jokes to each other. But, that’s besides the point. I was really moved when the priest focused on the four who carried the paralytic man. He said that the four were significant because they represent the whole world – north, south, east, and west, and he continued to share how important it is as a community to carry one another. I thought to myself, wow, that is beautiful. How true that is! And so, that day, I reflected on that…
The rest of the afternoon, I continued reading my book of choice for now, Good Friday People by Sheila Cassidy. This book warned the reader in the beginning that it would not be an easy book to read…I didn’t know what it truly meant, until I got more into the book. It’s a book about suffering. The author shares some of her experiences with suffering (torture in her case, when detained in Chile), and shares stories about Archbishop Romero, the people of Auschwitz, people who suffer with other medical issues, and how through this suffering, they have shared in the suffering of Christ. It really looks at the reality of the suffering. So vividly so. At times, I had to put the book down, cause it was too much for me, like, my heart would just drop, but it is a beautiful book in itself. Really powerful stuff.
On the back cover it reads, “This is not a book for the faint hearted, make no mistake of that. It is a book for Lent, and as such it demands that the reader, like Thomas, put his or her hand into the side of the crucified Christ.” – Sheila Cassidy. This is absolutely true…and I am trying to finish it, so that I can read it again. I was happy to have found it in our library at SOSCFI, and it stuck out to me – for good reason. Perfect timing.
The next day, Monday, for prayer, we continued to reflect on this Gospel from Sunday. It was then that I got hit with just a bunch of issues of suffering and pain and…that feeling you get when your heart just drops and it just starts to squeel all around. THAT feeling. It almost got to the point where it was overwhelming. This week I learned of some really awful news of sexual abuse and violence against children, I was reminded of the awful effects of social media on women and young adults and the damage that they do to themselves because of a desire to be “perfect,” and I encountered some really heavy issues that were really weighing heavy on my heart.
On Friday, someone asked me what it was about the Philippines that made me want to live here. It was interesting because the last time I was asked that question was probably a year and a half ago, around the time when I first moved here, but I found that my answer came out so freely because it is still so true for me. I shared some of my past experiences, but more specifically, while I feel I am drawn to the Philippines because this place is part of my blood, and my heritage, at the same time, I was/am not simply content with reading about the issues, and reading the numbers, and being blown away by the numbers that were listed in statistics about the amount of families and communities that live drastically below the poverty line. That was so out of reach for me. I wanted to be with the people. I recalled my experiences working at an orphanage with young girls rehabilitating from every type of abuse and awful, awful experiences from their yesterday – really heavy stuff. Could I do anything for them? Could I get them out of their poverty? No. But that is not my role. And I did not see myself as a Savior, and even moreso now, I realize how far I am from that possibility which is not even a possibility. And so, my answer still remains – it is not enough for me to just read about the issues and sob from afar. I need to be with them.
One of my favorite quotes from Maryknoll is from one of their videos that talks about the AIDS situation in Africa and they say, “statistics are numbers with the tears washed off, we deal with the tears.” And that is exactly it. I think that is what I have come to do.
From the Gospe, I recall how four had to carry the paralytic man. This paralytic man was dead weight. He could not carry himself. But these four, carried him on each corner and it was just enough to bring him to Jesus. And that is just it. It made me think…when I am the paralyzed one, who are the people who have carried me to Jesus? What were those moments of paralysis like? What was/is that paralysis? And on the other side of that, When was I one of the four who carried my paralyzed brother or sister to Jesus? Did I do it with a heart of love? We have each been on either side of the scenario, and it is really moving either way.
Just think about it. 🙂
I was reminded from my reflection that while Jesus provides us with just enough, during Lent, Jesus reminds us that there is so much more that God wants to offer us in our life. There is so much MORE awaiting us! BUT, we must allow ourselves to seek that, and to be open to the graces that are awaiting us. And yes, it is so hard, and yes, it involves letting go, and letting go, and letting go…but it is there. And I suppose we just may never know what that is, unless we stand up, take up our mat, and get walking. The suffering will end. The pain will end, but we have to stand up. The first step is sometimes the hardest.
It’s time! Lent is upon us, and I could not personally be at a better place to start this journey, this season. Thanks for coming along with me. God bless you, this Lenten season!